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5 big picture takeaways from the classic 2013 All-Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Kerry

Was it football’s game of the decade?

James McCarthy and Paul Galvin tussle during the game.
James McCarthy and Paul Galvin tussle during the game.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

THE THRILLING 2013 All-Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Kerry was aired on TG4 earlier today.

Following the late drama of the 2011 All-Ireland final, the last four clash between these two great rivals two years later managed to live up to the sizeable hype.  

Played during a time when defensive styles were becoming widespread around the country, this meeting was the perfect antidote with a number of all-time great forwards at the peak of their powers.

The opening 20 minutes alone contained four goals and some outstanding phases of attacking play. Then there was the helter-skelter last-minute action. Declan O’Sullivan’s late wide after Jack McCaffrey had a free controversially awarded against him for overcarrying.

Michael Darragh Macauley’s flick ahead of Marc Ó Sé that allowed Kevin McManamon race through from 45m to score a goal. As Dublin defended a four-point lead in the three minutes of stoppage-time, Paul Flynn ended up back on his own goalline to fill in for Stephen Cluxton after the Parnells man made a burst upfield with possession.

And as we’d become used to over the next few years, Jim Gavin looked like the calmest man in Croke Park in a madcap finale.

Here are five observations that jump out from a thrilling game:

the-kerry-and-dublin-teams-during-the-national-anthem The Kerry and Dublin teams during the national anthem. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Key stage in Dublin’s evolution

Corner-back for the 2011 All-Ireland win, Cian O’Sullivan spent most of Gavin’s first year in charge as the midfield partner for Michael Darragh Macauley.

He’d finish the season at centre-back where he won his first All-Star and would remain at the role for much of the next decade.

Ger Brennan endured a rough opening 35 minutes on Colm Cooper as Dublin conceded three early goals with the Kerry star pulling the strings from centre-forward. O’Sullivan reverted to number six at half-time and managed to quieten Cooper’s influence on the proceedings.

He stayed at centre-back for the final win over Mayo and made the role his own, developing into a sitting centre-back to sweep in front of the full-back line.

james-odonoghue-celebrates-scoring-his-sides-first-goal James O'Donoghue celebrates scoring his side's first goal. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

2. O’Donoghue’s rise

2013 was the year James O’Donoghue stepped out of Colm Cooper’s shadow and became Kerry’s chief score-getter. He posted 1-8 in the Munster-winning campaign and 2-3 that afternoon against Dublin. 

The Legion ace’s rise meant that Kerry could deploy Cooper in a quarterback role on the half-forward line, which almost undid Dublin. Gooch created O’Donoghue’s seventh-minute goal and the latter added a second green flag from the penalty spot in the 20th minute. 

O’Donoghue winked at the cameras after winning his first All-Star that winter and landed his second one plus the Footballer of the Year gong 12 months later. O’Donoghue was in the top two or three forwards in the country in 2013 and 2014, but an unfortunate run of injuries hampered his progress over the past five years.

There remains hope in Kerry that he can rediscover his best form if and when this season gets going again.

colm-cooper-chased-by-philip-mcmahon-jack-mccaffrey-and-jonny-cooper Colm Cooper takes on the Dublin defence. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. Cooper reinvented

The first-half of this game was a vintage Cooper performance and it led to him winning the last of his eight All-Stars. His career took an unfortunate turn after that season.

The following February, in the 2014 All-Ireland club semi-final against Castlebar Mitchels, the Dr Crokes forward suffered a devastating injury which saw him suffer ruptured cruciate ligaments and a fractured knee cap.

He found it difficult to have same sort of impact for Kerry again after completing an arduous rehabilitation process, but it’s worth reflecting on what became Cooper’s final great display in the green and gold jersey.

His dummy solo and slick foot pass into Donnchadh Walsh for O’Donoghue’s early goal summed up his genius. He turned Brennan for a fine point in the 17th minute and later moved into the edge of the square where he went on to prove a handful for Jonny Cooper.

diarmuid-connolly-celebrates-scoring-a-late-point Diarmuid Connolly celebrates scoring a late point. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

4. Connolly and Bernard at their peak

It’s easy to forget almost seven years on how central Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan were to this Dublin team. Brogan and Marc Ó Sé had some outstanding individual battles over the years and the 2013 tussle was right up there with the best of them. 

Despite Ó Sé’s tight marking, Brogan clipped over four points of the highest quality. None were more impressive than his effort midway through the second period when he peeled away from his marker and curled over a left-footed effort from 35m.

“Marc got the better of me several times but the 2013 semi-final is a game I’m going to chalk down as one I got over him,” Brogan later recalled. “I got 0-4 from play that day and we came out victors. To get a few scores off him and win the game made it a special day.”

bernard-brogan-with-marc-ose-at-the-end-of-the-game Bernard Brogan Marc Ó Sé at the end of the game. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

He had been searching for form in the earlier rounds, but this was a reminder that Brogan was very much a big-game player. 

It was up there with Connolly’s most memorable outings too. Everything he touched turned to gold – even an early shot that dropped short but fell invitingly into Paul Mannion to flick into the net.

The St Vincent’s star stroked over a wonder score after a neat one-two with Brogan and in the 68th minute kicked a pressure equalising free off his left foot. He sealed the win three minutes later to send the Dublin fans into raptures.

A mention for Darran O’Sullivan too, who was excellent for Kerry in this game.

jack-mccaffrey-and-donnchadh-walsh Jack McCaffrey being tracked by Donnchadh Walsh. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

5. Arrival of three superstars on the scene

One of Gavin’s biggest moves in his debut season in charge was introducing three players from his 2012 U21 side into the senior team.

Jack McCaffrey, Ciaran Kilkenny and Mannion would go on to become household names in the game, but they were still teenagers learning their trade in 2013.

Gavin knew what he was doing. They’ve enjoyed glittering careers and were three of the main men in the five-in-a-row winning side. McCaffrey was vulnerable defensively back then but brilliant going forward, while Kilkenny flitted in and out of games before becoming the man that dictated the tempo for Dublin. 

Mannion very much hit the ground running that season and put a goal past Kerry, though his final ended early with a hamstring injury.

The Castleknock man had turned his back on an AFL move that January, while McCaffrey and Mannion would each take a year out to see the world. All three remain central figures in the current side and at just 26 there’s plenty of good years left in them yet.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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